US forces captured Mustafa al-Imam in Libya for his alleged role in the 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, the White House announced on Monday.
“Yesterday, on my orders, United States forces captured Mustafa al-Imam in Libya,” President Donald Trump said in a statement. “To the families of these fallen heroes: I want you to know that your loved ones are not forgotten, and they will never be forgotten.”
Mustafa al Imam may have operated under different aliases, an administration official told CNN. The US government has video of al Imam present at one of the two sites of the attacks that killed four Americans, the official said. It’s not initially clear whether the video shows al Imam at the consulate or the annex which was also attacked.
The official said the US had been monitoring the terrorist operative’s location for some time.
Once Al Imam was captured, he was flown to a US Navy ship, the official said. Al Imam will be transferred to the US for federal prosecution but it is unclear at this time when that transfer will take place.
Libyan authorities were informed in advance about the US mission. All US troops involved in the operation have been accounted for and there are no initial reports of any injuries among the special operations forces. Al-Imam’s condition is not known at this time.
“The United States will continue to support our Libyan partners to ensure that ISIS and other terrorist groups do not use Libya as a safe haven for attacks against United States citizens or interests, Libyans, and others,” Trump said in his statement.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised Monday that al-Imam “will face justice in federal court for his role in the attack.”
“We will never forget those we lost — Tyrone Woods, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Ambassador Christopher Stevens — four brave Americans who gave their lives in service to our nation. We owe it to them and their families to bring their murderers to justice,” Sessions said in a statement.
Al-Imam is the second Benghazi suspect to be taken into US custody.
His capture comes as the attack’s suspected mastermind — Ahmed Abu Khatallah — is currently on trial in Washington.
Abu Khatallah faces 18 charges related to the deadly violence that began on September 11, 2012, including the murder of an internationally protected person, providing material support to terrorists and destroying US property while causing death.
During the attack, assailants armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades first blasted through the main diplomatic mission before setting it ablaze, according to 2014 court papers.
Stevens and State Department information officer Sean Smith died there. A coordinated mortar assault on a nearby annex killed security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, both CIA contractors and former US Navy SEALs.
“Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens choked to death by thick black smoke. Sean Smith choked to death by thick black smoke. Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were ‘blown apart by mortar fire,” federal prosecutor John Crabb told jurors in his opening statement earlier this month.
By Barbara Starr and Zachary Cohen, CNN